When I was in high school, the SAT Subject Tests (or SAT IIs) were called the Achievement Tests. That term, in my mind, gave them a positive connotation. I was proud to have taken them...until I took the French test.
I considered myself a super star in French. I had natural language abilities and eagerly absorbed new vocabulary and grammar. When it came time to take the French Achievement Test, I was prepared, but still a little nervous, as most students who take standardized tests tend to be. I cruised through the first part of the test, but came to a stop when a reading passage was about a word I didn't know. I remember counting the questions below the passage and wondering how much of a hit my score would take if I bombed every one of them.
That night, I probably talked to everyone in my AP French class. We had all been in the same boat. On Monday morning, our French teacher told us that the word was archaic, which was probably why we hadn't come across it before.
Though I took other subject tests (back then, writing was a Subject Test
and many top schools required it), the only test I remember is that French test. I hated seeing the score on my College Board score report and like many of you, I assumed that admission officers would zero in on that one score. I was so wrong! Here's the thing that most students don't realize: when we read a file, we are looking for reasons to admit an applicant, not deny them
. I'm not saying that I think the admission officers who read my file ignored that French exam score, but I bet they didn't fixate on it the way I did.
Advice for Those Worried about the SAT Subject Tests:1. We strongly recommend, but don't require Subject Test scores for several reasons.
If a school you love strong recommends that you do something, try to do it. Try to get the Subjects Tests into your schedule.2. If you take the Subject Tests, send your scores using the free reports. Waiting to see your scores before sending them will delay their arrival in our office
. These are one-hour exams and while they are interesting and helpful, they don't derail an application, so one not-so-great score is not going to negate all the great work you've been doing in other areas.3. If you can't take the Subject Tests, let them go.
There are only a couple more opportunities to take them if you are a senior. Since they aren't required, you won't be penalized if they aren't part of your application.